Press Release
August 3, 2020

Transcript of Zoom Interview of Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III

Q: Paki explain lang po yung ECQ na balak ninyo for the Senate. How did you come up with the decision?

SP Sotto: Yesterday Sen. Ping Lacson called my attention to the order of the Supreme Court na lahat ng under sa Supreme Court ng judiciary ay mag ECQ muna for two weeks and I have been receiving already the calls and the proposals from the health sector, from the medical and health professionals. So I thought it best that to show our concern and support to our frontliners who have been in the forefront since February, I thought it best that we do agree with them, we concur, and declare an ECQ in the Senate para sa lahat ng empleyado. Ngayon, after I talked with Sen. Lacson, I consulted my colleagues para hindi naman, alam mo naman tayo we lead by consensus and that is the best way to run the Senate. I have yet a member to disagree, so lahat ng nakausap ko sa Viber group namin, lahat agreed and it is only as far as the Senate is concerned. Kasi merong mga nagtatanong if it is part ng gusto namin sabihin sa Executive. No, the IATF has its own decision making, yung sa amin ay sa Senado lang. So, 100 percent ang narinig ko so far sa lahat ng nandoon sa Viber group namin. And then I called my kumpadre, Senator Frank, and asked him if he is supportive. He said he is very supportive and would like to second the motion. So I immediately informed you na yes, total naka leak sa inyo yung usapan, so I told you that yes, we will do so today. I am already asking Sen. Migz Zubiri to do the proper motion. Pero it will be confined to the Senate as a whole, not only the senator's offices, but the entire secretariat na ECQ na muna, but we will allow the virtual committee hearings para hindi rin completely ma-stop yung mga trabaho dahil yun nga, parang ECQ pa rin yun. And then of course there will be two exemptions: one is the already scheduled PhilHealth hearing tomorrow, and the other one is any bicam meeting that the House and the Senate will conduct. Yun ang two exemptions doon sa ECQ namin.

Q: If naka ECQ po yung Senate pero tuloy yung PhilHealth hearing and bicam, so basically may mga staff pa rin kayong papapasukin?

SP Sotto: Meron, for tomorrow yes. Medyo may pagka hybrid pero less on the physical presence as far as employees are concerned. Wala na yung employees na iba, yun lang concerned doon sa hearing and then very limited, skeleton din.

Q: When we say it s going to be a hybrid hearing for tomorrow, sino po yung required maging present?

SP Sotto: Senators who would want to be physically present, and then the resource persons, more particularly the whistle blowers and of course the leadership f PhilHealth.

Q: How many whistleblowers are we talking about?

SP Sotto: That question would be best asked to Sen. Lacson.

Q: So safe to say that the Senate is on a lockdown starting tomorrow?

SP Sotto: Yes, that is true and then most probably what will happen is that to avoid any constitutional problem with the House of Representatives, because we don't know how the House of Representatives will act on this matter, we will suspend the session this afternoon and not adjourn, because if we adjourn, we will be going against the three day rule ng congressional sessions. Dapat nagpapaalam kami sa kanila kung mahigit na three days (unclear) ang pagkakaiba ng adjournment namin, therefor we will not adjourn. I will suspend later, and then suspend until August 18 and that is bale two weeks from tomorrow, and what I will do is on August 18, I will resume. (Unclear) itong suspension until August 18 of course will depend, and I will ask Sen. Zubiri to do it with a motion, that the Senate President can call the session anytime. Kung even before the 18 kung nakita natin na merong matinding pangangailangan, pwede naming iresume ang session. Kaya safe to suspend as far as the rules are concerned. Safe to suspend, and pagdating ng 18, I will resume and adjourn so that the following day we can convene and call for the roll.

Q: kasama po ba si Sen. Cynthia Villar sa natanong ninyo about the ECQ because we know yung naging issue niya during the weekend na parang hindi siya in favor for the ECQ na kino-call ng frontliners? What did she say to you?

SP Sotto: Wala pang reply si Sen. Villar. Wala pa, but then you know it is going to be a motion of the Senate, I don't think she will object.

Q: So roll-call today, motion and then suspend? Ano ang mangyayari?

SP Sotto: (Unclear) ng importanteng dapat i-take-up.

Q: Tuloy ang caucus?

SP Sotto: Caucus? Yes, at 2 o'clock.

Q: This morning nainterview si Dr. Dans at yung iba pang health professionals, ang sinasabi nila, nag aappeal sila sa government na tigilan na yung pag gamit ng mga rapid test kits dahil ang tingin nila, 50 percent kaya nagkaroon ng rise in the Covid cases, dahil sa pag gamit ng rapid tests na nagbibigay ng false information?

SP Sotto: Well, they are the health professionals, I think we should give weight to what they say. Yung pag gamit kasi ng rapid, the way I understand it is maganda yun kung may mga symptoms. Gamitin mo kung merong mga symptoms, and then the PCR test is not available yet. I don't think we can do away with it 100 percent, because it helps somehow. Pero, again, there should be a very clear manifestation by the DOH on the reliability of rapid tests. Ganoon na lang siguro.

Q: Yung call ng mga medical frontliners natin is ECQ although ang naibigay ay MECQ. Ang sabi rin nila kanina, it can help but it will not flatten the curve. Tingin ninyo po ba napakinggan talaga ng husto yung concern ng mga health workers and how do you look at this reversion sa protocol natin?

SP Sotto: I think the Executive Department and particularly the IATF, they are handcuffed. Medyo they have to balance the economic impact, so they found a middle ground which is the MECQ. It's practically almost ECQ but meron lang mga inaallow na mga industries na tumakbo pa rin (unclear) na safety, for example, may mga shuttle, and then the food deliveries, health protocols, tuloy pa rin pero ECQ na at parang (unclear) na rin muna, because GCQ na tayo. For government to go back to MECQ, is already giving in although they could not give in totally because of the economic impact na totally baka madevastate tayo. But then again, it has been said and I have said it before, ang ekonomiya, kayang buhayin pag namatay. Ang buhay ng tao, hindi kayang buhayin.

Q: If you will have your way, ano yung tamang approach sana?

SP Sotto: You know I would rather not be in their shoes right now and answer your question. Napakahirap, because alam ko they were trying to balance. But those of us who can heed the call of the medical professionals, then let's do it. Mag ECQ tayo, yung mga pwedeng mag ECQ, mag ECQ. Sinasabi ng palasyo, ng Executive Department, MECQ would be good enough. Sa ibang industriya, okay lang yun, at least they gave in, merong middle ground, hindi nag stonewall.

Q: Maraming naoffend in behalf of the medical frontliners kasi imbes na bigyan ng tamang support, ang binibigay is yung pangako na insurance tapos yung threat na sige mag revolution kayo, etc. Did you see the same thing? And again, wala naman daw kasalanan si Sec. Duque sa nangyayari?

SP Sotto: Unfortunately for me, I was not able to watch it so I cannot answer your question. That is a very difficult question to answer.

Q: Including the Duque side?

SP Sotto: Yes, I was not able to monitor last night. What time did they start? I think I went to bed early.

Q: Hindi ka umiwas sir?

SP Sotto: Hindi, talagang hindi ko namonitor. What time ba nag umpisa?

Q: Around 11 PM po.

SP Sotto: Wala, tulog na ako noon. Nabalitaan ko lang na okay, yung sinasabi niya, there will be no public transportation during MECQ, but pwede ring mag voluntary ECQ yung iba, and then I think government will be hiring 10,000 health workers to help the present health workers, so that will be a good move. Although the comments that you would want me to make because I did not watch it and am not aware of it, mahirap.

Q: Can you share with us some of the information about your meeting this morning?

SP Sotto: A few days ago the Movie Producers Association of the Philippines, the PMPPA, sought my audience. We had a Zoom meeting with the stalwarts of the movie industry, the big time producers, and they called my attention to the JAO or joint administrative order from the FDCP, DOH and DOLE ang mga signatory. Ang nilalaman ay mabigat masyado para sa industriya at ang nirereklamo nila is meron namang sariling health protocols na ginawa na yung IGA, or yung guild association at saka yung mga PMPPA, meron silang sariling mga health protocols sila na sinusunod, na ginagawa, so bakit sila biglang parang ina-under sa FDCP na wala sa mandate ng FDCP? Yun ang reklamo nila, wala naman sa mandate nila yun. Ang mandate ng FDCP are for films thereafter. Wala silang pakialam sa post-production or production, walang pakialam, pero all of a sudden, the JAO will include asking them to give them a copy of the schedules of all the shootings whether television or movies, pati mga events, pati mga audio-video, pati TV production, lahat. Hinihingi yung schedules, hinihingi yung participants, yung locations, yung cost of production. Ano ang pakialam ng health protocols sa cost of production? Marami silang reklamo na parang overstepping itong FDCP sa mga gustong gawin at nakukuha ng kakampi sa DOH at DOLE, na ang DOH at DOLE talagang may karapatan na maglabas ng mga health protocols pero hindi makikialam sa production, di ba? At aminado naman sila. Kaya nga ang nag initiate pala noon ay FDCP. So I told them, I told Sen. Bong Go, and Sen. Bong Go informed the Executive Department, and they called a meeting na pinaharap kanina yung mga producers, sila FDCP, tapos yung ibang mga concerned sectors. They were not consulted, that is another thing. Ang pinalalabas, they were consulted, nagkaroon daw ng townhall meeting somewhere kung saan at ang mga umattend yung mga events, mga ganoon. It is nowhere in the mandate of the Film Development Council of the Philippines. And why did they approach me? I am the author and the principal sponsor of the creation of the FDCP and therefor they were asking me, ano ba ito? Nasa power ba nila ito na makialam sa amin? Wala, so� Kanina I think it was a very fruitful meeting, because lumantad lahat yung mga usapin and then I think they agreed to sit down again for this administrative order at ang sabi ko nga, pag tungkol sa mga events, dapat DTI at saka DOLE. Anong pakialam ng Film Development, di ba? Sabi (unclear) yung mga tax remittances, because ang reklamo ng mga producers ngayon, hindi raw nagreremit sa kanila ng mga tax remittances nila. In the law kasi, kaya natin ginawa yan, and I was reiterating, yung cinema evaluations board na dating film ratings board nung araw na nagbibigay ng tax break or tax free sa mga movies, mga films na locally produced, ay kaya natin crineate yung FDCP, to go around the problem (unclear) in the WTO and I did that since the 10th Congress ad the 11th Congress namin naipasa yan. So nilinaw ko at pinaalam ko sa kanila, medyo huwag tayong nag-ooverstep at huwag tayong, ika nga ay hindi naman natin trabaho eh pinapasukan natin, nababagabag yung mga movie producers. Star Cinema was very prominent in the issues na tinatackle, (unclear) was there, Lamasan was there, Monteverde, Jose Javier Reyes, all the (unclear) and directors were up in arms with this administrative order, na naooverstep yung dapat na trabaho ng mga ahensiya na walang kinalaman sa production.

Q: Nakaka dalawa na si Chairman Dino right? Itong sa MMDA na nag-ooverstep din siya, tapos itong sa movie industry, hindi ba siya bibigyan ng warning, ng sanction, or whatever?

SP Sotto: That is for the Executive Department to act (unclear) at the moment. Huwag na nilang sigurong hintayin na mag hearing pa kami rito at saka pagusapan pa namin yan when budget season comes because I think they have to look into the holdover capacity because her tenure has ended. Holdover capacity na ngayon yun.

Q: Kailan nag end?

SP Sotto: Three years after her appointment which was in 2016.

Q: Yung PhilHealth hearing lang po ang committee hearing na matutuloy?

SP Sotto: Yun lang ang matutuloy na may physical presence. All the rest na hearings pwede pero virtual kasi naka schedule na bukas, mahirap nang awatin. And then there are time constraints as far as two of the whistleblowers are concerned so medyo masyadong dangerous na iwanan natin ng dalawang lingo na nakatago or nakatabi.

Q: Given our situation right now, gaano kaimportante yun hearing sa PhilHealth?

SP Sotto: Napaka halaga sapagkat yung mga topics na pinaguusapan at binanggit natin doon sa resolution namin, is the, yung PhilHealth is allegedly collaborating with hospitals or clinics that are charging large claims to pay for non-existent dialysis services, while denying payments for legitimate claims of other hospitals. So isa sa nangyayari sa atin dito, number one issue ng bansa ngayon is the health of the country, di ba? Tapos meron pang mga overpriced information technology projects, merong mga questionable implementation ng interim reimbursement mechanism, the overpriced Covid-19 testing kits, lahat ito may kinalaman sa nangyayari sa bansa natin ngayon kaya mahirap ipostpone, mahirap patagalin. We seek to get the answers to the questions of how and where these funds were spent. Tapos, what is the current financial standing of PhilHealth bukod sa mga pinag gastusan nila? What are the causes of the leakages and the losses of PhilHealth? Kailangan lahat yan, dokumentado yan, hindi pwedeng basta sasagutin lang tayo ng hindi dokumentado yan. We'd like them to address the corruption allegations. The important thing, bottom line, is we need to amend the law. Apparently we need to amend the law creating the PhilHealth to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Q: Tingin ninyo yan yung critical to stop yung mga spillages na binabanggit ni Atty. Keith?

SP Sotto: Palagay ko, yes. Once and for all, we unearth what is hidden behind closed doors. That is what we want to do.

Q: Habang nasa MECQ tayo, what do you think the government should do doon sa two week period na hinihingi ng mga frontliners?

SP Sotto: Well, in contrast to what the others are saying na wala namang plano, walang programa, hindi naman totoo yun kasi meron namang mga nakalatag na plano ang gobyerno especially on health protocols. They are continuing with the testing, mass testing, hindi ba? And then the isolation beds are available, hindi pa naman talaga sagad 100 percent so nandiyan pa rin, and then they are going to add another 10,000 health workers na iha-hire ng gobyerno. Hindi madaling problema ito. I sympathize with the (unclear) sympathizing (unclear) with the one problem that I would not want to be deciding on.

Q: Five months into this problem, don't you think the government should recalibrate some of its response?

SP Sotto: I believe they are going to do that and aside from the fact that it was a learning process, there was a learning curve, if I may se the word because from February we did not know how the enemy works. Ang dami nating hindi alam. Unang-una nga na nadale mga health professionals, mga doctor, sila ang unang mga nadale hindi ba? Aside from the ibang mga namatay, nakakagulat yung number nila because we were blindsided by this problem. Nung December kasi, alam na ng China, alam na ng Vietnam, alam na (unclear), sa atin dito, parang naririnig lang natin di ba? Sila nag lockdown na, tayo hindi pa. Pagdating ng February, merong dumating dito na tatlong positive, hindi kaagad inasikaso ng DOH na hanapin, at contact tracing di ba yung lahat ng pinuntahan, yun ang pinaka mabigat na pangyayari. We were delayed and it was a learning process all the way to the fifth month. Kaya siguro ngayon pa lang pwedeng masabi na medyo kabisadong-kabisado na natin or kabisado na nila, although I don't think they are 100 percent on the button at this point. Baka meron pa ring mga kailangan kaya sabi ninyo and I do agree that we must recalibrate.

Q: Si Sec. Carlito Galvez nirecommend niya na bigyan ng at least P10,000 na benefits lahat ng tinamaan ng Covid na mga medical workers, kahit na mild lang yung case kasi nga gumastos sa gamot, nadiscriminate pa, inapprove yun g Presidente kahit na P15,000 okay sa kanya. Isama daw ito sa Bayanihan 2. Paano yun, approved na sa Senate?

SP Sotto: Again, as I said, dalawang bagay lang ang hindi natin pipigilan in the ECQ of the Senate. One is the Committee of the Whole, and also the hearings of the committees, and more particularly, the bicam. The bicam of Bayanihan 2 cannot be suspended. The Bayanihan 2 bicam doon natin maipapasok lahat ito kasi ito, mga napagusapan. Pag napagusapan sa isang batas whether it comes from the House of Representatives or from the House of the Senate, it can be tackled in the bicam. (Unclear) lumalabas naman ito. So the issues of risk allowance, life insurance, free accommodations, free transportation, free and frequent Covid testing, and then P10,000 or P15,000 for every health worker that gets sick, additional pa sa mga nilagay natin, yes, I assure you, we will incorporate it in Bayanihan 2.

Q: It means yung P140 billion pwedeng tumaas yun?

SP Sotto: It is a matter of prioritization, sa tingin ko. P140 billion would be at this point would be the peg but if necessary na kailangang magdagdag, kaya ng gawan ng Executive Department yan.

Q: Si Sen. Gordon parang magmamanifest or magfifile ng resolution na gusto niya magkaroon ulit ng hearing ang Senate sa state of national health?

SP Sotto: Of course we will support him. At this point, the number one issue is the health of the Filipino so anything that will help, anything that will address that, we can assure you that the Senate, the leadership of the Senate will be very supportive.

Q: Sabi ni (unclear) para doon sa gustong sibakin si Duque, bakit daw ninyo sisibakin, hindi naman siya yung nag import ng Covid sa ating bansa?

SP Sotto: No comment.

Q: Mamaya sa caucus, kung sakaling magmatigas si Sen. Gordon at sabihin niyang gusto ko ako ang maghahandle ng hearings sa death penalty, wala po kayong magagawa?

SP Sotto: Hearing sa death penalty? Walang problema doon, he is the chairman of the committee on justice. I don't see any problem if he conducts the hearing. It's just a hearing, it is not a sponsorship on the floor. D3epende ngayon yan if he is going to make a committee report or not.

Q: So kung sakali, iba yung magsponsor sa plenary?

SP Sotto: Kung lalabas yun, oo baka, because well I expect Sen. Gordon to not support it unless we were able to convince him that we limit it to high-level drug trafficking only which is drug lords lang at madaling patunayan kung sino ang drug lords, hindi mahirap yun, madali yun. Hindi ka pwedeng basta mangbintang ng kung sino lang, ito drug lord ito, hindi. Hindi lulusot sa Korte.

Q: Pero (unclear) paguusapan ninyo sa caucus mamaya?

SP Sotto: If they bring it up, but more or less I leave it to Migz on the agenda for the caucus.

Q: Clarify ko lang, three weeks ba, three days consecutive yung walang session dapat magpaalam na sa Congress?

SP Sotto: Three days. Pag nag adjourn kami within three days of the adjournment of the other House, walang problema pero if we go beyond, kailangan magpaalam.

Q: Pero sabi natin magbibreak tayo hanggang August 18. Paano po yun?

SP Sotto: Suspended ang gagawin namin, hindi kami mag aadjourn.

Q: Si Sec. Duque po ba nagsabi kung aattend siya bukas?

SP Sotto: Hindi, PhilHealth lang. Sa unang hearing PhilHealth lang.

Q: Morales po nag confirm?

SP Sotto: Yes.

Q: Kung hindi physical presence, how will you invoke the contempt powers of the Senate?

SP Sotto: Kaya nga ang kailangan yung mga resource persons at saka the top officials of PhilHealth must have physical presence and that's why the whistleblowers also, if there are any, kailangan ng physical presence. Hindi pwedeng virtual lang yun. Ang problema kasi sa ganitong maselan na hearing, pagka yung maselan na hearing na ganito hindi pwedeng basta virtual lahat or karamihan virtual because pwedeng naguusap tayo, lumalayo yung isa at hindi nakikinig, at saka kung merong question na hindi maganda or maiipit, biglang sabihin ay walang internet connection, pak, na (unclear). Madaling rumemedyo dito sa virtual. Lumayo lang sa camera, asan, nakikinig ba sa akin yun? May problema na tayo. Gaya nung sang araw, ganyan ang nangyari doon sa session, minsan tinatawag natin, wala, yun pala nagmemerienda, so medyo mahirap yun. Ok lang (unclear) sa amin, kami-kami lang yun, but when it comes to very serious hearings like the issue of corruption in the PhilHealth, medyo kailangan yan physical presence.

News Latest News Feed